Swedish telecoms company Ericsson has said it would be capable of replacing all of the Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G network if the British government decides to ban the Chinese vendor.
In an interview with Sky News the company’s president for Europe, Arun Bansal, said Ericsson was not lobbying for its Chinese rival to be banned – but would be capable of meeting the demand if it was.
It comes as the UK reassesses its previous decision to allow Huawei equipment a limited role within the country’s 5G networks following new sanctions imposed by the US government.
The National Cyber Security Centre, which considers Huawei a high-risk vendor, is re-evaluating whether it is capable of managing the risks Huawei poses as a result of the new sanctions.
“Ericsson is not described as a high-risk vendor,” Mr Bansal noted to Sky News, referencing NCSC’s official designation for companies such as Huawei.
Mr Bansal said he wanted Ericsson to succeed in the UK based on the back of its own technology and competitiveness.
“We are not betting our financial plan on the UK government making certain decisions which benefit Ericsson,” he added, noting the company is winning in many regions without such decisions being in place.
“My hope, not my prediction, but my hope is that with the government’s ambition, we can – as a partner in the ecosystem – make the UK the leading country in 5G,” he said – noting this would drive forward British industry.
The UK’s mobile network ability currently ranks 18th in Europe, something which Mr Bansal said is suppressing the country’s ability to produce multi-billion dollar companies compared to the US and China.
He called for a decision to be made sooner rather than later as mobile carriers appear to be choosing neither Huawei nor Ericsson equipment as a result of a lack of clarity from the government.
This, he said, was compounding the UK’s performance compared with other European countries in developing new businesses which could take advantage of 5G.
Meanwhile, Huawei has announced it will create up to 400 jobs in the UK after being given council approval to build a £1bn research and development facility in Sawston village near Cambridge.
Company spokesman Henk Koopmans said Huawei was a “long-term, major investor and partner for the EU and the UK”.
He said the firm had invested and operated in the UK for more than 20 years and already employed 1,600 people across 20 UK offices.
Over the last year Ericsson has been chosen to replace Huawei or Nokia equipment for nine mobile network operators – losing out to the Chinese company only in a single case in the Netherlands.
Asked if Ericsson could fill the gap if all mobile networks in the UK were instructed to remove Huawei equipment, Mr Bansal said: “Absolutely.”
Mr Bansal said the company had been myth-busting some assumptions on the part of British government officials that Ericsson’s technology was in some way behind that of Huawei.
“In the last 12 or 18 months we have done roughly 100,000 site swaps globally. That is more than twice the number of sites across the whole of the UK, so from a supply chain point of view we have that capability.”
“Globally we shift more radio base stations per day than would be needed to swap the entirety of London,” he added.
In the case that the UK government required Ericsson’s equipment to be manufactured outside of China, Mr Bansal said the company had factories in Estonia and Poland which could meet the UK’s needs.
He noted that China already reserves 90% of its domestic market share for domestic vendors, such as Huawei and ZTE.
Ericsson won the other 10% and has a factory in the country to produce this equipment.